What Comes ‘FIRST’?

When I was deciding on which university to attend, one thing that was extremely important to me was that I could stay involved with FIRST Robotics (see usfirst.org). FIRST is a family of robotics programs with different levels for each age group, and the acronym FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. I got started my freshman year of high school on Team 1073 (theforceteam.com) from Hollis/Brookline High School in my hometown. At that point, I actually wanted to pursue a career in film scoring and recording my own music, but this wonderful team made me realize that I could apply my aptitudes in math and science to a career in engineering. Since all levels of FIRST teams consist of adult mentors alongside students, I had reinforcement from seeing all the engineers on our team that this career path is definitely something I will have fun with and feel awesome about for the rest of my life. Because of what FIRST has provided me, it was very important to me to go to a university that understands FIRST‘s values and one where I could mentor a local team to make sure other students have the same opportunities I’ve had. There are so many teams in Brevard County, and I’m currently mentoring Team 233 (233pink.org) that consists of students from multiple area high schools. Also, there’s FIRST@FIT! It’s a club on campus for students to stay involved with FIRST by mentoring, volunteering at events, and hosting events on campus. This year there’s even going to be FIT’s first ever off-season competition for the high school FIRST program!

To sum it all up, FIRST has had a direct impact on the following aspects of my life:

  • Field of Study: By working side-by-side with engineers and being able to ask them questions about different disciplines, it was a no-brainer for me to dual-major in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering because that material is most interesting to me. Also, generalizing with the mechanical engineering degree will enable me to broaden my job search out of college.
  • Career: Because of my hands-on experiences on the team, but even more so for my business and communication skills, I landed an internship in engineering at BAE Systems this summer before I even started college. Now when I go to apply for other internships and jobs down the road, I can go into the interview with some very large advantages including experience and confidence.
  • Scholarship: Universities, companies, and organizations provide scholarships each year to FIRST students attending college, many of them granted no matter what you’re majoring in. FIRST directly contributed to the majority of my merit scholarships since FIT is one of the top providers of scholarships to FIRST students and because I was involved with the program in high school.
  • Grades: FIRST allowed me to learn the applications of the materials I learned in my classes, so now when I take every class I know how important the material is to anything I’ll end up doing in the future in my career. Because of this, I automatically strive to understand the material and perform well academically.
  • Community Service/Activism: It’s not all about the robot! People in FIRST get so much support from the community that it’s only natural team members want to give back by donating to and volunteering for local and national organizations. Many times it’s the organizations or companies our team members volunteered at that would become sponsors of our team down the road.  It’s all about building strong and genuine relationships with these organizations that have the potential to become employers and advocates for future members.
  • Leadership: All teams operate differently, but all teams also have plenty of opportunities for students to step up and gain leadership experience. Our high school team is very large (about 65 students and 25 mentors participated regularly) so it operates under a business structure with two Co-CEO’s and a VP for each subgroup including mechanical, electrical, software, business, strategy and integration. My first two years on the team I moved around a lot between all the different subgroups to soak in as much as I could. My junior year I was elected VP of Business, then my senior year one of our Co-CEO’s of the team. Even within each subgroup, there were always opportunities for students to step up and own a task.
  • Business/Communication Skills: FIRST isn’t all about building robots! To me, being on a FIRST team was all about gaining skills needed to perform well as a professional no matter what career path students that come out of it choose. Landing a job in engineering in the first place, and then especially when it comes to moving up on the management track, is more about communication, professionalism, teamwork and personality than anything else. These are the skills that I’m most proud to come out of FIRST with.

Most of my tweets are about FIRST, so come follow me on Twitter!! @Cheerleader1073 🙂 and if you have any questions about getting involved with FIRST at FIT or even if you’re just in an area where there isn’t a team and want help setting something up in your area just comment below or message me on Twitter!

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